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Packets Special Offers Semi-Postals Semi-Crazy Musings on Stamp Collecting About Contact Links
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Lake Edge Stamps

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Bob's Musings on Stamp Collecting

January, 2022
Very Interesting

When asked recently to appraise a worldwide accumulation of stamps in a bulging stock book, I found myself muttering the phrase in a German accent “very interesting”. Apparently, the influence of comedian Arte Johnson, a regular on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” 1960’s television series still reverberates in the abyss of my brain. Very Interesting Indeed! The seller was a non-collector and said he inherited the stamps from an uncle who traveled the world for a living. He would take this book with him to have postage for his correspondence while traveling. What was I willing to pay for it? I gave it a close examination. This is what I found:

The stamps were sorted by country in alphabetical order. (I later counted 135 different countries.) Can you image visiting 135 countries in your lifetime?

The stamps were about 60 percent commemoratives and the balance being regular issues. The stamps were mostly duplicated with two to twenty copies of each stamp.

The stamps were about equally divided between single definitive issues, incomplete sets and complete sets.

Included with stamps were multiples of First Class Etiquette stickers to add to the envelope. These stickers made a nice collection by themselves as each were printed in the language of the country.

The stock book was not properly cared for, so I found serious mold and spore damage. I estimated that 20% of the stamps were damaged. Unfortunately, later I discovered much more damage than my original spot check revealed.

I was fascinated by the collection. It was not like any other I had ever seen. Normally, I avoid buying collections with mold. But it was so interesting. I offered $200 for the lot. He left my table and visited other dealers at the show. An hour later he came back and told me I could have it for $250. I told him I was taking a risk at $200 and that was the best I could do. He accepted my offer. I could not wait to get home and further evaluate my interesting purchase. This what I found:

The seller was correct. It was obvious that the original owner bought stamps at local post offices and purchased stamps to pay for air mail rates.

I was fascinated by a worldwide accumulation of stamps that were all obtained in the country of origin at the post office and at face value.

Due to the repeated stamps with images of the pope and all the foreign stamps with US presidential images, I concluded he was Roman Catholic by faith and probably a member of the Republican party. I did not realize how many countries issued stamps with the image of Richard Nixon.

I also concluded that he might have been in the oil business since every Middle East country is represented. Yes, Virginia, the sand dune countries sold stamps at post offices.

 In conclusion, because of damaged stamps, broken sets and the time to insure no mold finds it way into my stock, I will probably be lucky to break even on this stamp purchase. On the other hand, can you put a price tag on a worldwide collection that takes you on a journey around the world and provides hours of enjoyment? As the stamps of many rarely seen countries get worked into my stock of packets, you will be able to enjoy this very interesting purchase along with me. Happy Collecting!

©2022 Robert Voss


August, 2021
A Professional Philatelic Recycler

When I was preparing to retire from my career as a pastor, I attended a pre-retirement workshop. The speaker made a statement that has always resonated with me. “You are not being retired as much as you are being recycled.” How true! I am as busy as I ever was. I am just recycling my talents, gifts, responsibilities and passions into new arenas of my life.

Recently, the youngest of my six grandchildren asked my a very pointed question. “Grandpa, what does a stamp dealer really do?” The word’s just flowed from my lips, “I recycle little pieces of paper that are miniature works of art and history from one collector to another collector.” He responded, “Why would you do that?” My answer was equally quick. “Because I like doing it.”

In fact I love it. I am filled with anticipation as I purchase collections from collectors, heirs, other dealers and auction houses. I enjoy admiring the care that another person had put in their collection. I recently purchased a Cacti collection that the collector spent a lifetime acquiring, researching and mounting. It was filled with information. It was beautiful. And it is my job to break it down in such a way that the joy of one collector can be passed on to another generation of collectors and learners. Being a stamp dealer involves a prayer of appreciation for those who have gone before us.

Stamp collectors are recyclers also. Having bought hundreds of estates over the years, it seems that there are no boundaries in ingenuity for the recycled products used to store their stamps. Recycled 3 ring binders, church offering envelopes, plastic food containers, sandwich bags, coffee cans and boxes of all types and sizes (including the infamous varieties and smells of cigar boxes, shoe boxes and bank check boxes) have all passed through my hands while recycling stamps from one collector to another.

And every week I have a load of material to recycle. Recently I purchased a nine box lot. When I was done, the stamps were neatly placed in three boxes to be worked up, and the other six boxes were items to be recycled. It seems clear to me that stamp collecting is a hobby for recyclers. Enjoy your stamps then pass them on.

©2021 Robert Voss


January, 2021
Buying a Worldwide Stamp Collection: Part II

In my last column, I mentioned the importance of looking at the actual binder and type of album pages when purchasing a collection. It probably goes without saying, it is even more important to look at the stamps themselves.

The first thing I do is carefully look at the condition of the stamps. Here are some of the things that are important to look for: ·

  • What is the general overall condition of the stamps? Clean or dirty? Neat or messy?

  • Are the used stamps nicely cancelled? I then determine for myself if the collection on the whole is in average, fine, fine-very fine, very fine or superb condition?

  • Are the stamps used, mint hinged, mint never hinged or a combination? Generally, sets composed of mixed used and mint are harder to sell than all used or all mint.

  • Are the stamps in mounts? Do the mounts allow for accurate viewing and removing of the stamps? Do not assume the stamps in mounts are never hinged. Often they may have been hinged.

  • Are the stamps layered? Some collectors like to put used stamps underneath or behind mint stamps.

  • If the stamps are hinged to the page, use stamp tongs to take a careful look at the hinges. Are the hinges the older variety (Ex: Dennison) that easily peel off the back of the stamp and page? Be careful. It makes a huge difference. Some hinges being manufactured today are very difficult to remove and must be soaked to save the stamp. I have one customer who soaks every used hinged stamp he buys to be sure the stamp remains in good condition and that there are no hidden flaws. Great idea -- if you have the time. As a dealer, I do not. If the stamps are mint hinged, check carefully that the previous owner did not have the “Heavy Tongue” syndrome where excess saliva goes beyond the hinge to the stamp gum causing the stamp to stick to the page.

  • Are the stamps in order by year or catalog number? This make a big difference in valuing the worth of the collection. A haphazard mounted collection takes TIME to evaluate.

The second thing I do is ask the question, where were the stamps obtained that were put in the album? This is not as difficult as it sounds. If a collector built a collection by regular dealer purchases or from clipped mail from family and friends is a key indicator of the value. First you can ask the seller or the seller’s heirs? If that is not possible, scan the collection with these questions?

  • Are the stamps all or mostly in complete sets? If so, the sets are more likely to have higher catalog valued stamps included in the collection. · Are the stamps mostly broken sets? This is an indication that the stamps were obtained through packets and mixtures. This is a great way to obtain stamps. It is part of my business. It’s the way you can get the most stamps and get a great bang for your buck. Who cares if your sets are complete if you are having fun? But truth be told, when you go to sell your collection there is a big difference. Completeness matters to most dealers and some collectors. Just saying! My packets of MNH complete sets is my all time best seller. There is a reason!

  • Can you determine what type of dealer was used to purchase the stamps? Approval dealer? New Issue dealer? Auction house? When purchasing a collection or collections from an estate, the invoices and envelopes often remain with the stamps. They are a big help in determining the value.

Let me conclude by saying that buying collections is an exciting and exhilarating activity for the dealer and collector alike. Until next time -- stay safe and enjoy your hobby however you choose to collect. Bob Voss

©2021 Robert Voss


August, 2020
Buying a Worldwide Stamp Collection: Part I

One of the greatest pleasures of being a stamp dealer is purchasing stamps to build your inventory. I purchase large lots at auctions, from other dealers, collectors and their heirs. Except for the few times when the seller has an extremely unrealistic view of the value of the collection, most transactions are pleasant. However, I have made a few mistakes buying collections. I have learned to count the lost revenue as an educational experience -- and I try not to make the same mistake again.

The first thing I look for when evaluating a worldwide collection is the “Type of Album.” Is the collection in a Scott, Harris, Minkus, other manufactured album or on homemade pages? It makes a difference. I prefer Scott Albums because I collect semi-postal stamps and they are mounted separately and easy to pull out. This is not true with many other albums. Because almost all of my clientele are worldwide stamp collectors, I look at the condition of the binders and the pages. Often these worldwide collectors are looking for extra binders or pages to expand their collections and are willing to pay a reasonable price for gently used binders and pages.

I would also add an extra caution when purchasing albums with the colored pictures of the stamps. The pictures are so realistic, I have counted stamps that were not really in the album. Once I stripped an album of its philatelic contents, only to find I had left several sets of nice stamps in the mounts.

After checking the album and binders I turn to the actual pages. If I am purchasing from a collector or an heir, I ask where and how were the collections stored. If albums were stacked on top of each other, you can be pretty sure a lot of mint stamps are stuck to the pages. Then I check the pages carefully by starting with the smell test. Is it musty or moldy? Did the collector smoke cigarettes or cigars around the collection. It is surprisingly easy to tell. Are stains present that would indicate water damage?

I take a careful look at the edges of the pages. Are they clean or smudgy? Do the pages have chew marks from rodents? Do not laugh! I have seen my fair share of collections where the pages have been chewed deep into the album to provide bedding for mice.

I also note if the pages have mounts. Be careful of PM brand mounts sold in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. It takes time, skill and patience and an X-Acto knife to remove the stamps. Crystal brand mounts were very popular at the same time. Many collectors used scotch tape to close the ends of the mount. Invariably the gum on the tape migrated to the stamps and stained them. I have seen collections where 90% of the stamps had tape stains ruining the value of the collection.

That is enough about binders and pages. Next time I will share what I look for with the actual stamps. Remember, whatever album or storing method you use, the most important thing is to have fun. Happy Collecting!

©2020 Robert Voss


April, 2020
Unhinged Again

Right before the corona virus pandemic and before serious physical distancing, my wife and I had the good pleasure of taking three of our grandchildren to see the movie “Call of the Wild”.  We all enjoyed the movie, especially the fact that all the animals were virtual images -- they were not real.  But they looked real.  Technology has revolutionized the movie industry.

Later that same evening I sat down at one of my stamp desks to finish removing French semi-postals from a French Collection I had recently purchased.  The hinges were peeling effortlessly from the pages and the back of the mint and used stamps.  All was going well until I hit the 1970 issues when the brand of hinges changed.  It was almost impossible to remove the hinges without damaging the stamp.  I left the hinge on the mint stamps and made a large packet of used stamps to be soaked later.

I became unhinged!  It takes time (and thus money for a dealer) to soak every used stamp that is removed from an album.  If we can make a fake dog look real, why is there not a hinge available today that clearly works as well as the hinges of the past?  I am fine as far as my personal collection goes.  Being a dealer for over 25 years, I have bought hundreds of stamp estates and have kept all the “Dennison” brand hinges that came with them.  At shows, I could easily get $20 for a 29 cent package of old Dennison hinges.

Over the years I have campaigned the APS and ASDA to develop a viable hinge.  I have written scores of letters. Many reasons and ideas have been put forth as to why it has not happened yet, but the reason most often noted is it is not economically feasible.

It is my personal opinion that if we had a proper stamp hinge it would instantly enhance and enliven our hobby.  Used stamp collections would regain their value and we would not have all the expense of mounts and hinges.  It is a lot easier to start someone new in the hobby without asking them to spend more on supplies than stamps.  If you agree with me, please join me in talking to those who lead our hobby. After all, I am a Chicago Cubs.  I lived with hope for 60 years and it finally happened! 

I am off my soap box now.  I feel much better.  Happy Collecting!
©2020 Robert Voss


February, 2020
The Chase

Just a whiff of the men’s cologne “English Leather” will transport me to my adolescent years of 1965 and 1966. The “Beatles” had made it big and teenage dance clubs were popping all over. It seemed every high school had their favorite garage bands and the clubs were filled weekend nights with young people ready to dance. I can not speak for the girls that attended, but I know I was up to the challenge to find a dance partner and maybe even a girl friend.

The “Pink Panther” in Northbrook, Illinois was the club that my friend Billy and I frequented often. To attract the girls I wore a dark turtleneck and a red and black plaid shirt and lathered on the English Leather. The chase to find a dancing partner required making up a few white lies to impress the girls. My personal favorite was saying that I was a surfer from California in Chicago on vacation. The truth is I got a few dances, but never did find a girlfriend. Interestingly, I never told anyone that I collected stamps! Still, Billy and I enjoyed the chase and those days still provide pleasant memories.

Happily married for 50 years, my days of chasing after girls is long gone. But I still enjoy the excitement of a chase. Now I chase stamps. I collect worldwide semi-postal stamps. There is something exhilarating about finding the stamps or sets that I need to complete a country. I love to attend stamp shows with my want list and chase down the stamps that I need. As many of you know, it can be frustrating. I went to MILCOPEX this year with a list of 42 stamps I needed from “A” countries. I did not find a one. Still, I loved looking at dealer stocks and chatting with fellow collectors and dealers. I have never attended a stamp show I did not enjoy.

Recently, a stamp collector friend asked me to stop by -- she had a surprise for me! When I arrived she gave me an envelope and inside, in a glassine, nicely protected by cardboard, I found Angola B1 and B2. These two stamps had been on my want list for 14 years. After profusely thanking her, I went home and mounted the stamps on my Angola page. I poured myself a cocktail (a Bourbon Manhattan is my favorite), and gave thanks for my philatelic friends, another country completed, and our great hobby of stamp collecting that provides so many benefits -- like fulfilling the biological need of “The Chase” and the psychological need for completion. Now I think I will see if I have any English Leather left in my bathroom cabinet.

Happy Collecting!
©2020 Robert Voss

October, 2019
Are Stamp Collectors Crazy?

As stamp dealer Frank Bachenhiemer has reminded us with a sign at his stamp show table for years, "there is a fine line between collecting and mental illness."

As a pastor, I was expected to take two weeks a year and use them for continuing education.  In the late eighties, I noticed an increased up-tick in gambling related issues among congregational members due to the rapid increase in gambling casinos in Wisconsin.  I decided to attend a week long educational conference "Addictions" at the Hazleton Institute in St.  Paul, Minnesota to improve my counseling skills.

On the first day, we learned there were many kinds of addictions besides alcohol and drugs.  We learned about gambling addictions, sex addictions and several others.  We learned about the addictive personality, and we each took a test to find where each participant fell on the scale of having an addictive personality.

I have searched my files extensively, but never could find that test again.  But I do remember several questions: Do you think about your addiction often? Do you go to the Yellow Pages (today it would be the internet) to find a local source for your addiction when you first arrive in a new town? Have you ever taken money from your family to support your addiction?

OOPS! I was thinking about stamps most of my drive from Madison to St. Paul. The moment I checked into the conference hotel, I looked up the address of local Stamp Stores in the Yellow Pages. Worse yet, under my seat was a bag with a Great Britain stamp collection I bought that morning at ta local stamp store before the conference even began. Then I remembered how recently I had borrowed from my kid's college fund to purchase a collection at auction I thought I really needed. (I fortunately paid it back quickly! It was the good deal I thought it to be.)

The good news was that the test revealed I did not have a "Highly" addictive personality, but there were warning signs that I needed to be careful. That experience helped me realize that I must always keep my hobby in perspective, and not to let it take over my life.

Thank goodness I am only semi-crazy when it comes to stamps.

I hope you also can keep your stamp collecting in perspective. If we love something too much, it could turn into an addiction and wreak havoc with our lives and the lives of those we love.

Are stamp collector semi-crazy? Yes. I think most of us are, and that is what makes the stamp collecting community such a joy to know, serve and work with.

If you have thoughts about what I write, please feel free to contact me at lestamps@charter.net.

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